Las Vegas Water Conservation is a huge success story, but everyone still wants to know if we are going to run out of water. We are constantly asked:
- What is the water situation in Las Vegas?
- What’s going on here with the drought?
- Is the conservation hard to live with?
Water Drought and Conservation
Sometimes it seems like everyone I talk to asks about the drought in Las Vegas. My answer to the above questions tends to be along the line of “Is there a drought still?” Las Vegans have been conserving water for so long that it has become a lifestyle and is hardly noticed. If the drought is finally over, I doubt that our lives will change. Conservation is a lifestyle that we feel is easy to live with.
Las Vegas enjoys over 300 sunny days a year, but it’s tough to fill Lake Mead with our annual rain and snowfall. Las Vegas averages 4.19 inches of rain per year making it the driest medium-sized city in the United States. Phoenix averages 8.03 inches annually, which is almost twice the rainfall in Las Vegas. Los Angeles averages 15.1 inches of rain a year, and Miami is the place ducks like most with a 59-inch average rainfall. Las Vegas Valley’s rainfall added to our minimal snowpack absolutely does not sustain the water needs of 2 million residents and the 250,000 tourists every week.
Because we have such a diverse city, we are not normal water users. Think about it: every resident and tourist use ice and water for food, drink, and dish washing. They also need to bathe and use the restroom. Then there are the landscaping, grass, and water-guzzling palm trees.
Every one of our sparkling pools in town is guilty of evaporation, plus they lose water with every splash and every time a person leaves a pool. Golf courses have to be watered to keep green. Streets and sidewalks need to be cleaned even when it’s hot. Construction sites also have to spray water to keep the dust down. We consume. We grow very little food.
Where Does The Water Come From?
The Colorado River supplies 90% of Southern Nevada’s water. The other 10% of the city’s water is taken our of water company owned community wells scattered around the valley. The Las Vegas Valley Water District wells, residential private wells, and residential community wells make up the other 10% with aquifer water.
Supply and Demand:
The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is the agency in charge of negotiating and supplying water to the entire valley. SNWA has done an excellent job over the years to ensure we have ample Colorado River Rights. There are agreements in place that will supply the valley for decades to come.
Virgin River Water Rights coming from Utah is an optional future resource. Currently, the demand doesn’t justify the expense that would be involved to pipe that river and make a new pumping station. A lesser expense would be to pipe the Virgin River into the Colorado River and use the existing pumping station that is 50 years old. For now, we need to enjoy the Virgin River while it remains wild. The Virgin River Gorge along I-15 is an absolutely lovely place. I think keeping the Virgin River basin wild and its water enhancing the beauty of our local desert is worth the cost of conservation.
Southeast of the Las Vegas Valley is Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Ten years ago there were over 100 miles of lake shoreline. Not any more. Water released from Utah’s Glen Canyon and Lake Powell flow into Lake Mead. Lake Powell started releasing the minimal amount of water required by law after the drought became a problem. Lake Mead then released more water than it took in to supply Nevada, Arizona, California and Northern Mexico.
In May of 2016, Lake Mead’s water level reached its lowest point since originally being filled in May of 1937. The lake’s water level today, in December of 2019, is 6 feet higher than December of 2018. With Lake Mead being the largest man-made reservoir in the country, there is no danger of it drying up. I believe that due to the water and electrical resources Lake Mead provides to the entire Southwest, Lake Mead will have water.
If the Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority and these mammoth hotels have anything to say about it, not one whisper of water trouble in paradise would get out. In 2018 51.3% of Southern Nevada’s gross product, totaling 57.6 Billion dollars, was the impact tourism had. Maybe they’ll buy some rain…
Las Vegas Water Conservation:
Community effort and awareness made Las Vegas shine as an example of water conservation success. Las Vegas Valley residents managed to reduce the per person water usage by 40% during the last 15 years!
About 15 years ago a county-wide effort to remove water features and grass landscaping started. Homes now install re-circulation systems, tank-less water heaters, water-efficient appliances, and low-flow fixtures. Desert plants, decorative metal and, cement art and hard-scaping are now used with rock-scaping on the streets, community areas and, freeways.
Business Water Plan
Water conservation plans were implemented by businesses as well as residents. Some businesses get water usage cut-off amounts. Everyone has assigned automatic sprinkler watering days. People became aware of their usage, and watering enforcement patrols were started to educate and help. More cars are using car washes where water is recirculated. Nozzles have gone onto our hoses. It has all worked!
The people and the cities of the Las Vegas Valley have created a huge resource change for our state and for our planet by working together. Because of on-going technology shifts and lifestyle changes, when over 60,000 new residents relocated to Las Vegas last year, there wasn’t much of an increase in total water usage. We think that it’s because conservation has become a way of life.
It Makes Us Happy
We are conserving water. When told that I cannot wash our cars by hand without a nozzle on the hose, I decided that I HAD to go the car wash. No grass means no mowing, no gardener and lower water bills. Instant hot water for tea and coffee is pretty great and a hot water recirculating system makes my shower hot almost instantly. These things make me happy! Conservation can be a great thing!
Conserving water saves us time. The pool fills itself and I never over-fill it anymore. The pool’s water feature only runs when I turn it on manually which means I HAVE to sit and enjoy it.
The yard waters itself at night. Our landscaper trims the bushes and sprays weeds 3 times a year. We blow dust and leaves the patio instead of hosing it off. It seems that we expend very little effort to conserve water and that’s all it takes to do our part.
History and Water Fun
The Springs Preserve is located on the historic spot where many pioneers camped. For over 100 years trains stopped there while crossing the desert to get water. Water from an underground aquifer was overflowing and bubbling out creating a desert oasis into the 20th century. The same site where people gathered for hundreds of years still has people gathering to learn, relax, eat and drink.
Tourists and residents both enjoy boats ride on Lake Mead all year long. Of course, lounging by the pool at a hotel or the local water parks is mandatory fun, and watching the Fountains at Bellagio is a very joyful treat any time you see the show.
In conclusion, there is a lot of BIG business in Las Vegas. If we continue on this path, we will have plenty of the valuable cool wet stuff for everyone to use and enjoy for many years to come!
Read our blog about conservation and sources Is There A Water Shortage?
This Blog was written for you by Kurt Grosse.